I don’t know about you, but when I’m having a lazy night on the couch I feel a little less lazy and my brain feels a little less like mush if I watch a documentary instead of something like, I don’t know, Teen Wolf. Which, by the way, I caught the last half of a week or so ago and by gosh, if that isn’t one of the worst movies ever made…
So back to documentaries. Lucky for my brain I really enjoy documentaries. My friend Kevin asked me to recommend a few a while back, so this blog is the first stab at racking my brain for the ones I enjoyed the most in the past few years. I’m sure I’ll think of more, and I’ll post those too. If any of you have good documentaries to recommend, please post them in the comments, we can all use a good recommendation! Thanks, and enjoy!
Thank you Netflix for the descriptions.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox
Brilliant chemist, Holocaust survivor and mental hospital escapee, Dr. Emanuel Bronner invented his famous Magic Soap and founded the environmentally concerned company that’s just as popular today as it was among the counterculture in the 1970s. This documentary captures the complexity of Bronner’s relationship with his son Ralph, who spent years in orphanages and foster homes as his eccentric father sought to unite all mankind.
Man on Wire
Philippe Petit captured the world’s attention in 1974 when he successfully walked across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers. This Oscar winner for Best Documentary explores the preparations that went into the stunt as well as the event and its aftermath. Obsessed with the towers even before they were fully constructed, Petit sneaked into the buildings several times to determine the equipment he needed to accomplish his daring feat.
The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks
Alt-rock favorite The Flaming Lips invite filmmaker Bradley Beesley, who directed many of their music videos, to join them on a journey through the past as they take a look back at their countless escapades. See what the band is like onstage and on the road; listen to the members reminisce over the highs and lows of their 20-year career; meet the people who surround them via interviews and video footage; and more
This Oscar-nominated entry documents the intense experience of the National Spelling Bee as seen through the eyes of eight young spellers, with viewers glimpsing the kids’ private lives as they train for and compete in the ultimate cerebral showdown. While they try to keep their eyes on the $10,000 prize, their personal stories illuminate their quirks, their obsessive study habits and their alternately heartbreaking and inspiring family dynamics.
We use it every day on our computers, we see it on street signs — and we take it for granted. Now, Gary Hustwit’s unique documentary introduces us to Helvetica, a font whose readability has made it the most popular in the world.
From the masters who create the mind-bending diversions to the tense competition at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, Patrick Creadon’s documentary reveals a fascinating look at a decidedly addictive pastime. Creadon captures New York Times editor Will Shortz at work, talks to celebrity solvers — including Bill Clinton and Ken Burns — and presents an intimate look at the national tournament and its competitors.
Mad Hot Ballroom
Ballroom dancing goes from lame to cool for a group of New York City students in this insightful documentary, which follows a group of 11-year-olds as they learn to dance old-school styles including the merengue, rumba, tango, foxtrot and swing. Candid interviews capture the kids’ initial reluctance at learning ballroom dance and their transformation into serious competitors determined to win a citywide competition
In this character-driven documentary, filmmakers Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo follow four “word nerds” through their fastidious preparations and smaller tournaments that lead to the national championship Scrabble tournament in San Diego in 2002. Our favorite contender: Joel Sherman, a true dork with acid reflux trouble (he constantly quaffs Maalox) and no other discernable job besides playing Scrabble.
Danielson: A Family Movie
This compelling documentary about faith-based music within popular culture chronicles the artistic journey of musician Daniel Smith as he pursues his dream. Smith, his four siblings and his best friend face ongoing struggles to promote their Christian band Danielson Famile within the mainstream music community. Performances by Danielson Famile and Smith as a solo act add to the unique feel of director J.L. Aronson’s thought-provoking film.